OTC & ECCO, Spring 2014 Gear

DSC 0650 OTC & ECCO, Spring 2014 Gear

OTC is proud to be a brand ambassador for the footwear and lifestyle brand ECCO.  When it comes to everyday life, we often need items that work well, get the job done, and are a comfortable fit.  More often than you might think, ECCO products fit that bill.

Shoes that are incredibly comfortable and versatile, bags that work in the real world, and accessories that fit a casual, European inspired lifestyle, are the hallmarks of ECCO products.  Modern styles and technical functionality are also core attributes of the company and our recent shipment highlights all these elements.

For Spring 2014, we are checking out some classic hand-sewn boat shoes, a pair of hybrid day sneakers, and a leather zip tote that makes for a stylish office alternative.

BIOM Lite 1.1 Sneaker

DSC 0634 OTC & ECCO, Spring 2014 Gear

Ellery Boat Shoe

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Deane Tote Shopper

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Here are a few additional views:

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DSC 0651 OTC & ECCO, Spring 2014 GearDSC 0648 OTC & ECCO, Spring 2014 Gear

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A 5K Day with Some Favorite Workout Brands

DSC 0622 A 5K Day with Some Favorite Workout Brands

Fall means cooler weather and shorter days.  For the runners among us, it also means race season.  Whether the local 5K or New York City Marathon, the fun, excitement, and competition of a well-organized road race is something looked forward to as autumn’s crispness settles in.

OTC’s Chris Hogan hit the pavement the first weekend in November in one of the longest consecutive running 10K/5K races in the state of Maryland, and joining him were a few of our favorite brands.

For the run itself, ECCO provided the BIOM EVO Racer Lite running shoes and Timex’s Ironman Run Trainer GPS (similar) helped monitor time and pace. ECCO running shoes are less well-known than other big brand names, but the company focuses on producing the best footwear possible – a corporate goal right from the start.  With a low heel drop that redirects road impact toward the ball of the foot, a more natural running experience is created.  It took a little while to get used to the ECCO fits; now, it’s the only one we recommend.  And, ECCO’s Better Running Lab, its athletic research unit, uses direct feedback from and to real runners as a tool for refining their shoes.

A nicely curated playlist helped the race fly by thanks to RHA Audio’s  MA600 earbuds – still the tops for everyday running, as far as we are concerned.

Post race – and still early, cloudy, and chilly – a classic zip hoodie from American Giant was just right.  They also sent along a great mid-weight tee to freshen things up afterwards.  You don’t need us to repeat what everyone else has already said: American Giant makes the best hoodies – the best classic sweats, frankly – on the market today.  Think of those old-school staples from the 1950s; the sweatshirts and tees that they used to make “back then.”  That’s what American Giant does better than anyone.

Thanks to all our OTC friends for their thoughtful and always-stylish support – more running to come!

DSC 0625 A 5K Day with Some Favorite Workout Brands

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IMG 6748 A 5K Day with Some Favorite Workout Brands

 

BeltCraft: Belts Designed By You

OTC Classic by BeltCraft BeltCraft: Belts Designed By You

Belts are one of the few ways the most men can strike a personal note in their wardrobe.  A belt is both practical and decorative, traits which make it a genuinely important item in your sartorial arsenal.  Sadly, belts are also an accessory to which too many men pay too little, if any, attention.

From wearing a one-inch glossy dress calfskin version with clearly casual khakis to refusing to acknowledge that a favorite belt should have been retired (read “thrown away”) years ago, men often fail to recognize the real importance of a good belt.  As with any other accessory or piece of clothing, choosing your belt should be an active and conscious decision.

BeltCraft Belts 300x176 BeltCraft: Belts Designed By YouThe right belt brings an outfit together, often blending into the overall harmony of your ensemble and not even being noticed.  Forest for the trees, if you will.  In contrast, the wrong belt can instantly draw attention to the disharmony of your clothing and quickly distract from what you say or do.

When someone dresses well, you know it, even if you are not able to put your finger on what it is that makes him look so great.  However, when dressed poorly, it is often immediately obvious what has gone wrong.  And often, it’s the small things, like a belt.

To make life a little bit easier, a company we simply love, BeltCraft, will help you design your very own customized belt that fits correctly and meets your own needs.  From formal or casually colorful, textured to sleek and simple, this innovative company lets you create the belt you really need; or just want.  These are top quality belts, individually hand crafted in New York City by a young belt maker using only the highest-grade leathers, suedes, and cottons.  All their buckles are solid brass and also made in America.  Suffice it to say, these guys are all about making the best belts they can possibly make.

We pulled together the “OTC Classic” as a great all purpose go-to belt.  Outside of a suit and tie, this matte finished cognac leather belt with a rounded silver buckle is perfectly appropriate for jeans, cords, or chinos.  It even looks damn sharp with a dressed-down pair of grey flannels.  The white contrast stitching gives the belt a slightly casual feel while the polished edges and tapered tip balance that informality with timeless, dressy details.

The BeltCraft site is easy to navigate and incredibly informative.  You can make your own or view designs already available from BeltCraft or, as with the OTC Classic, belts designed by other customers.  For what you get, the prices charged – topping out at $69 at the time of writing – are incredibly fair.

So, now you have no excuse for not having a couple of belts that work just right, no matter what you have on.  Check out BeltCraft’s video below to learn more.

 

To Protect and Serve…Your Wardrobe

Elegant Wardrobe Retreat To Protect and Serve…Your Wardrobe

Assembling the perfect wardrobe takes a lot of time, effort, and of course, money.  When done the right way, it is an example of selective and ongoing curating; the building up of a collection that comes to frame and define how you present yourself to the world.  A meaningful, practical, and stylish wardrobe is not mere decoration or flash; it is equal to the art on your walls or the books in your study.  These things are all extensions and expressions of the stuff of life and the things we value in the physical world.

Of course, acquiring the ideal wardrobe is only one half of the battle.  The other half is properly looking after your investments. Keeping your clothing and accessories in great shape takes a little work but that effort will pay off in long-term enjoyment and in the wonderful, classic patina that only time can provide.

The natural aging of fabric and leather and the wearing down of cuffs and elbows are normal; where did you think elbow patches come from?  Still, having to deal with these inevitabilities should be held off as long as possible and doing so allows your possessions to keep their appeal while still developing the character that makes you want to keep them around for years to come.

HANGERS

First and foremost, invest in good wooden hangers.  This is a must – there is no way around it.  Solid wood hangers support your garments, help preserve their shape, and ultimately protect your investment.

kirby allison hanger project jacket hanger brown 300x290 To Protect and Serve…Your WardrobeUsing a solid and well sized wood hanger (suit hangers for suits, slimmer hangers for shirts and felted bar hangers from trousers) will add years to your clothing and help protect your garments from snags, wrinkles and stains.

While any sturdy wooden hanger is better than wire or plastic, hands down, some of the finest we have ever used come from OTC sponsor Kirby Allison’s Hanger Project.  These hangers are the equivalent of closet furniture and are built to last.  While this is clearly a luxury suit hanger and not inexpensive, as an investment in your fine garments a proper hanger will probably outlast you and be very much worth the cost.

Now that you have some good hangers, use them.  When done with your clothes for the day, hang everything up.  If something is dirty, throw it in the laundry or take it to the dry cleaner – just don’t pile things up on the floor.

THE CLOSET

Having a jaw-dropping closet like Ralph Lauren’s is the dream of many a style-focused man, but properly maintaining your possessions is rule number one no matter your budget.

Ralph Laurens Closet1 To Protect and Serve…Your Wardrobe

Whatever its square footage, make a point of keeping your closet in order.  Garments need room to breathe and space to air out, so try to avoid crowding.

You should able to identify and reach anything in your closet.  For items on upper shelves, keep a folding footstool handy.   If you are able to do so, consider investing in a customized closet system designed to maximize your closet’s unique shape and size.  There is a surprisingly wide range of possibilities out there, from fully custom built-ins to pre-packaged options.

A clean and orderly closet is both inspiring and practical.  If you open the door and see a curated collection of well-organized favorites, getting dressed is an enjoyable and fulfilling process.

DRY CLEAN or BRUSH?

In general, most suits and sport coats only need to be dry-cleaned once a year or so. Delicate fabrics and linens may need more attention, but on the whole brushing your garments with a clothing brush will remove most dust and dirt. Quick attention to spot cleaning can address minor stains and help avoid unnecessary trips to the cleaners. If your suit is looking a little too lived in, consider taking it in for a pressing only. It will look refreshed without being unnecessarily exposed to damaging dry cleaning chemicals.

KentTravelClothesBrush To Protect and Serve…Your WardrobeIn most cases, everyday wrinkles will work themselves out in between wearings, but a tried and true road-warier steaming can help too – just hang your day’s outfit next to the shower.  Of course, some people choose to invest in an actual steamer.  If you wear a suit regularly, it can indeed be a smart investment.

LAUNDERING SHIRTS

Though some people insist on dry cleaning their dress shirts, we are hardcore advocates of laundering them at home. When it comes to washing shirts, cold water is usually best, but always defer to the shirt’s care tag first.  Iron on a slightly cooler setting with steam and lay off the starch.

If you feel compelled to use it, starch only those areas that tend to become unruly, like cuffs, collars, and plackets.  If you regularly send your shirts off to the cleaners, pass on the starch there as well.  Commercial presses do a fine job of working out wrinkles without the need for extra chemicals that can over time degrade natural fabrics.  When ironing at home, always remember to iron the backside of the shirt’s collar.  For cuffs, iron the backside of barrel cuffs and the reverse (inside side) of French cuffs – also called double cuffs.

FOOTWEAR & CARE

Nowhere else does the concept of “investment clothing” hold forth than with footwear.  A good pair of quality business shoes can easily cost several hundred dollars and head north from there.  Though it can be a big financial hit up front, good shoes will always be in style and when properly cared for, can last a lifetime.  Custom shoes quickly reach into the thousands of dollars, and thought they may seem an extravagance (and for many of us they are), custom shoes in addition to looking great, will help keep your feet healthy.

As a general rule, you absolutely get what you pay for when it comes to good footwear.  Buy the best you can afford and consider shoes as a capital investment.  Keep your footwear in top notch shape and they will pay you back in dividends for years to come.

In addition to protecting your dress shoes’ leather with regular polishing, always use shoe trees. There are many variations, but the best are full-sized and made from untreated cedar. The shoe tree will absorb moisture and help maintain your shoe’s shape.

Fancy varnished trees are fine too – we are seriously partial the kind with heavy brass knobs or pull rings.

Bally Shoes Trees To Protect and Serve…Your Wardrobe

 

Choosing Accessories: Cufflinks

Bulldog Cufflink Choosing Accessories: Cufflinks

Men often face limited options when it comes to jewelry and decoration.  A wedding ring, signet or family ring, and a nice watch are about as far as it goes for many guys.  While some may opt for a gold bracelet or necklace, it’s tricky territory for even the most well intentioned men. The line between cool and caricature is easily crossed and too many wind up looking like an extra from the set of The Sopranos.

One problem with men’s accessories is that they are often, by nature of their purpose, hidden.  A hand crafted wallet or card case from Italy.  An engraved sterling silver money clip.  The family heirloom-cum-lucky-talisman; an old coin or perhaps a lovely pocket knife with inset mother of pearl grips.  All incredibly personal and for the most part, all typically out of sight.

For the most part, men prefer subdued over garish, classic rather than glitzy – much like my continued enjoyment of old school and straight-forward Mount Gay Rum as we continue to develop this series of sponsored articles.

Mount Gay Logo 100x100 300x300 Choosing Accessories: CufflinksThere is one additional way to express your personal flair and show a little style.  There’s always a time and a place for cufflinks.  Sporting a pair can at first feel a little intimidating.  They are, as opposed to the items mentioned above, very visible and often scrutinized.  Cufflinks are not discreet or retiring; even when as with simple silk knots, they are in fact discreet.  People notice them.

Cufflinks come in myriad styles, materials, sizes and price points.  But to make life easy, just follow a few simple rules:

  • Don’t be flashy. Simple and elegant is always a better choice than kitschy or tacky.  When dressing it up, silver is often easier to pull off than gold. 
  • Yes, you can dress down cufflinks, that’s what silk knots are for.  And, they come in numerous colors and patterns. 
  • It’s best to keep the size of your links in the medium range.  For example, the whole postage stamp thing – too big. 
  • Ideally, unless you are going for a novelty look, stick to links that mean something to you and reflect your interests, passions, personality, and style.

Baade II Cufflinks Choosing Accessories: CufflinksThe type of link you choose says something too.

Silk knots are affordable, colorful and a great choice for either keeping it very simple or adding a fun punch of color.  At the opposite end of the spectrum are chain cufflinks.  These are typically two decorated panels connected by a small length of chain, allowing for both sides of one’s cuff to be well-dressed.  T-bar links are the most common and have a simple post and swivel bar to secure the cufflink.

Although I have a fairly extensive collection, ranging from simple silk knots to presidential cobalts, my favorites are a pair of double-panel platinum vermeil links from Baade II.

An American maker based out of Atlantic City, NJ, Baade II is a small, family run business that produces things of genuine and long-lasting beauty.  As with any aspect of your wardrobe, strive to make investments, not mere purchases.

Every great story begins with a time and a place.  For Mount Gay Rum, that time is 1703 and that place is Barbados, the birthplace of rum.  Introducing Mount Gay Black Barrel, a double matured rum from the inventors of rum.  First matured in toasted whiskey barrels then finished in deeply charred bourbon barrels, Mount Gay Black Barrel balances full-bodied character with subtle aromas.  Learn more at www.facebook.com/mountgayrum

Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Mount Gay Distilleries via Glam Media.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Mount Gay Distilleries.